Wakefield, Aceves invaluable to Sox success

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Wakefield, Aceves invaluable to Sox success

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK -- A few short months ago, the Red Sox' starting pitching depth appeared to be a real weakness.

Sure, the Sox had a talented rotation, led by Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, but what if something happened to the five starters?

Almost 60 games into the season, predictably, something has happened. John Lackey missed almost a month with elbow inflammation and the team not only survived his absence, it actually thrived while he was on the DL.

Meanwhile, Daisuke Matsuzaka was discovered to have a torn elbow ligament and will undergo season-ending surgery Friday. That, too, hasn't slowed the Sox, who today sit atop the American League East with the best record in the league.

For that, the Red Sox have the duo of Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves to thank.

"Since (Wakefield) and Aceves have taken those starts,'' said Terry Francona, "we haven't really missed too much. They've done a great job.''

In games started by the two, the Red Sox are 5-4, which might not sound like much. But consider that the starts have essentially come in the No. 5 spot in the rotation, where even good teams can be vulnerable and factor in that the Sox have a winning record in those contests.

Heads above water, in other words.

And Wednesday night, with the Red Sox bashing the New York Yankees 11-6, they were a duo of sorts, tagteaming to help the Sox win the series.

Wakefield started in the withering heat, running empty at 91 pitches and 5 13 innings. With the bullpen short -- Daniel Bard unavailable and Bobby Jenks freshly placed on the DL -- the Sox didn't want to run through two or three arms to finish out the game.

So, Aceves chipped in with 3 23 innings, piggybacking on Wakefield's start.

After going 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts -- he should have won another, but Matt Albers memorably melted down against the Cubs on May 17 and robbed Aceves of a victory -- Aceves has twice given the Red Sox length out of the bullpen.

Saturday, he contributed four innings of one-one relief after the Sox coughed up a four-run lead and had to take 14 innings to beat the Oakland A's. Twice, then, in the last five days, Aceves has pitched seven innings out of the bullpen, finishing both games and allowing just two runs.

"He comes in and finishes a game,'' said Francona in admiration. "That's not an easy thing to do. But he's stretched out and he's good enough. He's so valuable. He can start if we need him to. This about (two) outings in a row now where he's helped the bullpen.''

Using only one reliever -- and staying away from late-inning bullpen mainstays -- is a gift for a manager, one that keeps paying dividends.

If Francona has to use Bard and Papelbon Thursday night in the final game in New York, he can do so without worrying about overuse.

Wakefield's value this year should not be overstated.

In the Red Sox' system, only Felix Doubront stands as a ready-for-prime-starter and he was unavailable -- both at the start of the season because of spring elbow inflammation, and then again later, due to a groin strain.

Doubront's absence could have crippled the team early when Lackey and Matsuzka went down and the team was still reeling to recover from its dismal start.

Instead, Wakefield stepped in and the team has won four of the six games he's started.

"What can you say about Wake?'' marveled Jason Varitek, who caught the knuckleballer in a start for the first time in six seasons Wednesday.

More to the point, where would the Red Sox be without him, and, on Wednesday night, his tag-team partner, too?

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.